Testing 1, 2, 3: The Ins and Outs of Job Trial Periods

It costs the average company $4,000 to hire a new employee, and that’s not including the additional costs that can result from a bad hire. A poor fit and exaggerated value can land your company in a world of financial hurt.
Implementing employee “trial periods” (also known as “probationary employment periods”) can help you avoid these common hiring mistakes because – let’s face it – no recruitment process is perfect. Putting candidates through a temporary trial run gives you the power to evaluate their skill set in action, not just on a piece of paper. Every company’s different, but these answers to common questions regarding trial periods can help you get started.

What should my trial period consist of?

The trial run should match the position’s day-to-day duties as realistically as possible, or you risk an inaccurate assessment. Treat employees in a trial period exactly as you would any other employee, taking them through the same onboarding process and providing similar levels of guidance. Since your main priority is to see whether the candidate can handle the position, it’s crucial you don’t make any drastic changes outside of the job description.

How long should my trial period be?

There’s no hard and fast rule that dictates the length of employee trial periods. According to Wonolo, they can vary from 30 to 180 days in length, with the most common length being 90 days. This cut-off point serves as a good middle ground between “too short” and “too long.” With the former, you don’t get enough time for a full sense of the candidate’s overall fit. If there isn’t a solid offer in place yet, the latter may cause the candidate to lose morale as time drags on. If a candidate is a poor fit right from the start, don’t worry. With probationary employment periods, you can dismiss inadequate candidates at any point within that time frame. It’s a good idea, though, to provide an explanation for why they didn’t make the cut to avoid any hard feelings.

How should I evaluate an employee’s performance during a trial period?

Quantitative measurements can help you make a data-driven decision – not to mention, they reduce the level of bias and subjectivity in the hiring process. Some areas of focus may include clock-in and clock-out times, as well as the time taken for lunches and breaks, and time needed to complete required tasks. But of course, the quality of a prospective employee’s work is equally as important. To make the best judgment call, get an existing employee who works in a similar position as the candidate to provide feedback on their assignments. This’ll help the candidate learn the expectations of the job and hopefully grow as the trial period goes on. Performance management strategies can also help with this process. Don’t forget to compare what they said during the interview to their actual work performance. Did they claim to have strong leadership skills? Or boast their proficiency with a certain software? Take note of these claims. You don’t want to extend a permanent job offer to a dishonest candidate. The ability to test a candidate’s fit and performance before extending a permanent agreement is invaluable. Employee trial periods prevent costly personnel errors, protecting your company’s bottom line. And if you end up continuing that persons employment, they’ll already be well-acclimated to the workplace, increasing the chances of your new hire growing into a top performer.
Amanda Wright is a content editor at Better Buys, helping companies find and select the right software solutions.  She enjoys writing about the intersection between business and technology

Author: Amanda Wright

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